Polk (Phytolacca americana)

Polk (Phytolacca americana)
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American Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) is a large, shrubby perennial growing up to 10 feet in height native to eastern North America. Also known as American nightshade, cancer jalap, coakum, garget, inkberry, pigeon berry, pocan bush, poke root, pokeweed, redweed, scoke, red ink plant and chui xu shang lu (in Chinese medicine), parts of this plant are highly toxic to livestock and humans, and is considered a major pest plant by farmers. Nonetheless parts of the plant in different stages, can be used as food, medicine or poison. The plant has a large white taproot, green or red stems, and large, simple leaves. White flowers are followed by purple to almost black berries, which are a good food source for songbirds such as Northern Cardinal, Brown Thrasher, and Northern Mockingbird.


Plant Type: Perennial herbaceous plant which can reach a height of 10 feet, but is usually under four feet . The stem is often red as the plant matures. Central stem type, with one or more stalks. Plant dies back to roots each winter.

Leaves: The leaves are alternate with coarse texture with moderate porosity. Leaves can reach nine inches in length. Each leaf is entire. Leaves are medium green and smooth with an unpleasant odor.

Flowers: The flowers have 5 regular parts with upright stamens and are up to 0.2 inches wide. They have white petal-like sepals without true petals, on white pedicles and peduncles in an upright or drooping raceme, which darken as the plant fruits. Blooms first appear in early summer and continue into early fall.

Fruit: A shiny dark purple berry held in racemous clusters on pink pedicles with a pink peduncle. Pedicles without berries have a distinctive rounded five part calyx. Berries are pomes, round with a flat indented top and bottom. Immature berries are green, turning white and then blackish purple.

Root: Thick central taproot which grows deep and spreads horizontally. Rapid growth. Tan cortex, white pulp, moderate number of rootlets. Transversely cut root slices show concentric rings. No nitrogen fixation ability.[1] [2]